The speculation, debate and conversations about Ohio State never end, and Lettermen Row is always ready to dive into the discussions. All week long, senior writer Austin Ward will field topics about the Buckeyes submitted by readers and break down anything that’s on the minds of the Best Damn Fans in the Land. Have a question that needs to be tackled, like the one today about Ohio State and interior linemen — like potentially Paris Johnson? Send it in right here — and check back daily for the answers.
The bookends are set for the the oline. How does the interior shake out for Coach Studrawa?
— Thomas Scurlock (@ThomasScurlock8) February 5, 2021
Paris Johnson could have started almost anywhere in the country as a true freshman.
At Ohio State, he still probably won’t be the first-team tackle as a sophomore.
It’s still somewhat hard to fathom that the Buckeyes have built up so much veteran talent that somebody with Johnson’s undeniable upside still isn’t likely to crack the top of the depth chart on the edge. But with Thayer Munford and Nicholas Petit-Frere returning after developing into one of the best tandems in the nation last season, that’s the situation for Ohio State — and it’s only going to make the entire unit better.
Johnson showed later in the campaign that he could still make an outsized impact at guard if that’s where he’s needed most for now. Plugging him in on the interior changes the entire dynamic for the Buckeyes and could arguably even raise the ceiling for the group despite losing two bonafide stars in Wyatt Davis and Josh Myers.
“Paris would be a starting offensive tackle at 99 percent of the universities in the country this season,” Myers said late in the season. ” … I don’t know if I should say this or not because it’s pretty early on in Paris’ career — but in my personal opinion, if Paris isn’t an Outland Trophy winner before he leaves here then he’s screwed something up, because he should be by the time he leaves. In my opinion, he’s that talented.
“I think part of our role, and the reason why I said I’m not sure I should say [the Outland Trophy stuff] or not, is because he is a young guy and he has things he needs to improve on. … It was a great year for him to just continue to get better, and he has just all year. He’s gone hard, and he’s been committed to getting better.”
That improvement could very well allow him to push Munford or Petit-Frere for a spot at tackle during practice, although that remains a tall order even for somebody with Johnson’s physical tools. Munford is poised to become something of an Ohio State unicorn as a four-year starter on the line, and Petit-Frere turned the corner to show why he was the top-ranked recruit at the position when he arrived on campus. If for some reason something happens to one of those veterans, of course Johnson would be on call to kick back to tackle.
But if not? Johnson can be an interior force that gives Ohio State the kind of versatility and depth that would be the envy of essentially every program in the nation. With a full year to properly transition to center and experience under his belt, Harry Miller should take the next step to tap into his five-star potential. After impressing in key moments when pressed into the lineup, Matt Jones would seem like the odds-on favorite to fill the other guard slot — but nothing is guaranteed for either of those guys. Just to name a few: Luke Wypler, Dawand Jones and Enokk Vimahi all possess the ability to make a run at meaningful reps for the Buckeyes, and that is absolutely a good problem for position coach Greg Studrawa to have.
The work is only just beginning. But one way or another, Paris Johnson should have a major impact on what the Buckeyes look like up front.
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